cherished canvas

cherished canvas

Sunday, April 30, 2017

10 Hours Without Water

A white note hung around the door knob when I came home from the store last week. 
"Please do not use water during the hours of: 8am to 6pm on 4/27/17," it proclaimed. 
The note explained that our local government was contracted to repair pipes in our neighborhood, thus resulting in our sewage connection being temporarily sealed off.   Full cooperation was necessary to avoid backup of sewer water into our home.  Um, yep, we'll comply.  Seriously, who wants unflushed toilet water spewing into their home?
But I also realized it was an inconvenience of sorts, especially when a toddler is potty training and mounds of laundry have piled in the washer and heaping dishes in the sink, waiting for a simple swoosh of water to usher them into cleanliness.
     While I held the note in my hands and began to ponder those complaining thoughts, I was swiftly silenced by a clear, plastic container filled with clanking coins on the counter.  The word "water" delicately written on the container by my 10-year-old in red sharpie caught my eye and transported my thoughts to the land of South Sudan.  Twice a month a group of 5th grade girls gather after school to bond, laugh together and grow in their faith. They recently wanted to help others and connected with a book they'd read, chronicling a boy's long, incredibly difficult journey in South Sudan to find safety and

water in an eventual refugee camp in Kenya.  The girls decided to fill up their containers with change to help bring water and food to those in South Sudan. 
This is South Sudan's every day.  
Instead of 10 hours without water, those mamas are clamoring for 10 hours with water at any point in the entire year.
Instead of wondering how laundry will get done, they are hoping for a place to call home.
Instead of trying to decide what to have for dinner, they are praying for manna from heaven or termites to hatch, or something, anything.  
I spent the 27th appreciating the little things and praying for and broken hearted for the millions that are struggling to find a simple meal and life-giving water.  I wish I could transport the never-ending spring of water in my neighbor's backyard to the parched land in dire need of a break. There's so many things in this world I don't understand and break my heart, but today served as a fresh reminder to look outside the walls of my own home into a world that so desperately needs Hope and the promise that it won't always be this way.  Even if a small drop in the enormous bucket of need, so thankful for the girls who will send their own money (and others who've contributed!) in a few weeks to help in a small way. 
At 6:10pm, the faucets poured water, and I'm more grateful than ever for the basics of life and reminded once again to never take it for granted.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Going Back to Cali

"A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow."

Time hadn’t passed.  It couldn’t have.  It felt so normal.  Yet the calendar’s reality has flipped through three years of time in between.  But isn’t it beautiful when you sit in the presence of those who know you so well that you don’t have to start at the beginning, and your heart feels rest-full? 

My words don’t come easily when I think about our time in California.  Three short years passed since we departed with heartaches of goodbyes from the sun-kissed land for the north’s green trees and rainbows, and we decided it was time to venture south once again for a brief visit.  Driving away that March day in 2014 was terribly difficult.  The unknown that lay before us didn’t help my planning mind rest, but we believed God had opened a door.  So, we walked through it.  Even though we knew we were right where we needed to be, the first year was filled with challenges.  Throw in a bonus pregnancy and baby and no house to call home in the interim, and the idea of missing those who knew me dug into the core of my being. And I was missing their lives. These were heart friends who knew me deeply, and had come around us in hard times and celebrated alongside up in good times.  They welcomed our babies, cheered from the sidelines, and encouraged my head to keep looking up even when life threw a curve ball, or two, or three. 
To sit with these dear ones this past week even ever so briefly was precious, and reminded me that wherever life takes us there are those along the way that will always be part of our journey.  
And at the same time, I stare at my present world, and am blown away by the people God’s given us.  And this quote rings true, “Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest.  It’s about who walked into your life and said, ‘I’m
here for you and proved it.’”
Feeling grateful for the silver and gold friends of life who continue to prove it.   

Monday, March 6, 2017

Longing for Spring: Embracing Today

"I've never longed for Spring as much as I do this year," my 72-year-old friend confesses to my waiting ears. 
The calendar reads March, but white fluff falls from the heavens this morning and covers the vulnerable earth below.  What happens when our Winter never seems to end?  We turn the calendar page, longing, awaiting, desiring for the blossoms to come forth, the sun to warm, and the fragrant trees to grow their leaves once again.  But it just doesn't happen.  The snow still bombards.  The gray remains.  The naked tree branches snap in the wind. 
And. So. We. Wait. Patiently. Anticipating. New. Life. 
But isn't it in the waiting where we either choose to either embrace Today for what it is, or we long for a tomorrow that is never promised? 
I open the door with a two-year-old in tow, and the cold slaps my face.
"Mama, look!"  she exclaims.  "Snow!  Catch it, Mama?  Taste it, Mama?"
Her fingers open to the precipitation that gently lands into her palm.  Her head arches heavenward and her mouth opens to reveal a pink tongue ready to swallow Winter. 
And then I see it: the purple crocus pushing through the frozen ground to open its beauty to a longing world.  This is its time to blossom. To shine.  It's waited nine long months under the heavy ground to break forth powerfully and delicately all at the same time.   
Little feet patter next to mine and run to the flower.
"Smell it, Mama?"     
We get down on all fours and our noses infuse the aroma.  Even in the midst of the hard, the waiting, the longing, the Winter of our soul, there is beauty being created.  Spring will come.  New life will reveal itself.  But in the process we are being made new when we wait on the Lord and see the beauty already all around us.  And maybe, just maybe, in the dead of our Winter, today is our day to bloom.  Maybe someone around us needs to smell the fragrance we emit when we embrace the season we're in.  
"Yes, Baby, let's always catch, taste and smell the good right in front of our eyes.  Thank you for reminding me to embrace Today.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Is Our Son Lost in the Deep Snow?: The Space Between the Unknown and Known

Picture Taken with Son's Phone on the Mountain
Christmas passed a few days ago.  My Man and Son took advantage of a clear, pristine day on the Mt. Hood snowy slopes.  I enjoyed a quiet day with my girls. 
We were eating dinner and making play-do creations when the phone rang.
The one that stops you in your tracks.  
Makes your heart immediately go into erratic beats.  
Puts pretzel knots in your delicate stomach.  
Turns your brain inside and out so you can't think straight.  
"Hey, can you turn on your 'Find My iPhone' app?" My Man asks when I answer the phone.
"Sure.  What's going on?" I reply.
"We're looking for an iPhone," is all he can say before he needs to go and would call me back.  
The call ends. I turn on the app, and try to talk sense into myself but it sounds more like jumbled verbal throw up in my head.  And why is it that worst-case scenarios even arise?

....Surely My Man isn't looking for Son.  But what if he is? Did Son go off the beaten path and he's deep in snow?  Alone?  Hurt?  What the heck is going on?  It's getting dark.  You did tell them to take the phone in case they got separated. Is there a search party happening? My Man is there and he would tell me, right? He has things under control.  Or maybe he doesn't want me to worry?  Obviously, that's exactly what I'm doing! I'm ridiculous. 

My brain stops long enough for my heart to tell it a few truths: "Do not be anxious for anything but in every situation, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Phil 4:6).  
I calm.  

I breathe.  

Even in this....presenting my jumbled verbal throw up to him...Don't. Forget. The. Thanksgiving.  That's the key for life.  That's the key that opens the door to a perspective we can't get when we're so consumed with our circumstances.  
And it's in the waiting, the space between the unknown and the known, that our true colors either shine against the situation exposing character that has been through this before and knows a faithful God who will never leave us nor forsake us, or they can blur together to form the color of murky mud and we wallow in the worry.  
In this moment, I fight against the mud and cling to the thanksgiving.  
My shaking hand sends a text comprised of four words.
"Did you find him?"
With every palpable beat of my heart, I have to know.
My Man immediately calls and tells me that he is with Son.
Utter, exorbitant relief.  
It's the darn phone that went missing...somewhere in the mounds and feet of powder snow.  And I don't give a rip about that rectangular electronic.
One run prior to the phone falling out of Son's pocket, he found someone's brand new Samsung Galaxy.  He turned that in, and now my boys wait for hours to see if anyone would do the same for them.  
No phone located through the app either.      
When they walk through the door, I wrap my arms around Son's frame, look him in the eye, and tell him how much I love him. 

And tucked away in the minutes of this day, I was reminded to rest in the waiting.  Sometimes our waiting is milliseconds. Other times it's years, or a lifetime.  But the longer we wait and trust and press in and grow, the deeper our roots go down and our tree grows tall.  In the minutes today between my unknown and known, a place deep in my heart revealed I still have a long ways to go but also confirmed I've come so far.  I will rest in the latter knowing my life is always a work in progress.

And, as for what happened to the phone, that's a story for another day!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Purple Threads in Our Lives

It's a cold December morning, and I feel the desire to wrap myself in a blanket all day long.  Since that's not possible, I don the closest companion: my favorite Fred Meyer khaki-colored poncho.  And then the crazy morning routine happens: first kid to the school bus, second kid's diaper changed, and the third kid driven to school.  I arrive home in time to dress the second kid, light the Christmas tree, and put the tea kettle on the stove for my small group (aka heart friends) who will soon be walking through my door.  

Breakfast forgotten.
Husband traveling.
Dog a muddy mess.
Dishes all over.
Trip over the balance beam in the middle of our living room. 
Laundry pile staring vehemently.
Toddler potty training. 

Friends arrive.  So glad these are "come as you are" friends in my imperfect life, but yet I realize more and more with time that real life is so much grittier and more beautiful than anything else.  It's truly freeing that my house, and more importantly my life, doesn't have to be perfect.  Because, really, what does that mean anyways? People are knocking on the doors of our life.  
Let them in for crying outloud!

And somehow in the midst of the craziness, life calms.  Being in the presence of these women who listen, care and love well fills my soul and helps carry me through.  It's a priority for our lives, and it's an hour-and-a-half well spent to refocus, pray, and support one another.  

The last friend leaves, and the toddler requires a nap.  I place her peacefully in her crib, and on my way tiptoeing out of her room, my poncho catches the door knob.  My body lurches backwards towards the door, and "Dang it!" comes out in an obnoxious whisper.  

I release myself from the entrapment of the door knob and examine the snare it caused.  
Only to find among the thousands of khaki-colored weavings is one:

Doesn't make sense.

I grumble at why anyone would put a purple thread in the midst of this poncho and look for a way to cut it out.  But...then...I start thinking about why it's there:

My whole poncho will unravel without this Purple Thread.  As much as we don't think we need the Purple Thread in our lives and grumble about it, we do.  We don't want to face our disappointment, anxiety, addiction, loss, parenting struggles, betrayal, health issues, jealousy, or whatever it may be.  
We want it to disappear.  We want to cut it out of our story. 
But we can't.  It is part of us.  
As Solomon writes, "He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

It's not in our time to know when and how God will use this, but He will (and maybe is using it even now!).  It reminds me of one of my dearest friends: as a tender, ten-year-old she tragically lost her daddy.  Her hero.  I met her when we were both 18, and she allowed me on her journey of grief, healing, redemption, and purpose. And now she speaks about this to others whose story is similar, encouraging little, vulnerable hearts to keep pressing forward and trusting God's plan for your life even when life doesn't make sense.  Everything IS beautiful in its time. 
Embrace the Purple Thread.  
Look on it with grace and joy.  
God wants to redeem those places.  
And know that in the midst of whatever trial, whatever challenge, there's always something to be thankful for.  

Maybe you can't see past today.  And that's okay.  I get it.  I've been there, and will probably be back there again. At this moment, I stare at the beauty, and I'm grateful for dear ones in my life who embrace their Purple Thread and teach me to do the same.  We are not meant to do this life alone.

Maybe the Sewer took the sharp needle and that Purple Thread kicked and screamed, tried to run away, and didn't want to be part of the poncho.  Or maybe It was too tired, limp, and too deep in a hole that saw little hope.  But the hands that reached down, delicately picked up the Purple Thread, and crafted each pull and push of the needle knew the importance, the significance, and the magnitude. Your Purple Thread intricately matters, and the Sewer sees the beauty, color, and purpose.  Rest in His hands as He weaves your story back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. 



Monday, November 7, 2016

Punching Through the Bricks: Kaylee Overcoming Fear

She stands alone at the corner of the blue floor.  Her toes curl against the springy surface that promises to launch her high.  Her pink, sparkly uniform reminds her all eyes rest on her.  She wipes the sting of the tears from her eyes.  She wants this SO badly.  But this is only the warmup, and her teammates, friends and family in the stands, who know and understand her, yell, "C'mon Kaylee!"  "You've got this, Kaylee!"  "Here we go, Kaylee!"
She's frozen.
I sit on the cold bleachers with my left hand covering my mouth.
I see the tears in my daughter.
I feel them deeply and wait in suspense.

It's been nearly two months since she rocketed down the gymnastics floor doing a routine skill, tweaking her ankle in the middle skill and landed awkwardly, causing her to fall violently on her back.  I, along with her coaches, thought she would "get through it" in a day or two.
Making herself sick she wanted it so badly but the fear was real.  It was a thief.  It was a terrorizing beast hovering over her every time she stepped on the floor.  It was as if bricks were being built in front of her: one by one until her vision was entirely blocked and all she recalled, all she
remembered, all she could think about was the hurt of the fall.  Who wants to experience that again?  No one!  No one at all!  Not even her teammates who observed the fall as some of them developed their own fears after watching her.
When it first happened, we talked about it, challenging her to press through. But it soon became very clear that the fear was real and deep, and our verbiage shifted to encouragement and letting her know how much we loved her, and we were here for her.  After awhile, there were no words. Just a hug.  A reassurance.
What we were dealing with was real life.  Matt and I honestly did NOT care if she touched the floor one more time and she was done with gymnastics, but we did care that somehow, someway we got through this.  This transcended gymnastics; we were talking about a life skill she can carry with her forever.
A mile marker in her journey.

I stand from the bleachers to get a better view of my petite girl.  My mind goes back and forth whether she's going to try the skill in warmup.  If she can do it in warmup, she'll do it in the routine.  I know this.  I believe it.  And with all the gumption mustered in her small frame, and the gym's focus and vocalization drawn to her, she propels her body through the bricks, past the thieves and the terrorizing beast and does a beautiful round-off, backhand spring, back tuck. Her teammates cheer.
I wipe my tears.  She did it! She performed the skill in her routine, and ran to give her coach (who's been there every minute for her) for a big hug. 

On Sunday morning after church, we asked her what her lesson was about.
Say what?
"Do you understand what that means?"
"Yes, like when I did my back tuck."
Absolutely, Little One.
You get it.
Hide those Truths away in your heart for the next time fear creeps in like a dragon breathing fire.  Hold up your shield, let go of your arrow, and watch the dragon crumple to the ground.  And may need to do it all over again.  
And know this promise by heart: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).